Saviour of the World|
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
About the time that the Seventh-day Adventist Church was arising in mid-nineteenth century America, the doctrine of dispensationalism was also being formulated. Popularized by the Scofield Bible, this teaching went on to become widely accepted among certain segments of conservative Christianity in America and elsewhere.
Dispensationalism divides all of human history into a handful of distinct time periods, or “dispensations.” One of these, the period from Moses to Christ, is called the dispensation of the Old Covenant. According to this teaching, the human race was placed under the authority of the law during the dispensation of the Old Covenant, but, with the coming of Christ, the Old Covenant was abolished. The law, dispensationalists say, was nailed to the cross and replaced by the New Covenant of salvation by grace alone. Thus, they teach that the law is no longer binding on the Christian who lives under grace.
Our Adventist pioneers tried to counteract this false teaching, especially in view of the importance they placed on restoring the Sabbath truth of the fourth commandment. As a result, these early Adventists began to emphasize the law and the Christian’s need for obedience to it. Eventually, this emphasis reached the point that the doctrine of justification by faith was largely forgotten and even excluded from the main thrust of Adventist teachings.
For example, from 17 August to 19 December 1874, Uriah Smith published a series of articles in the Review and Herald under the heading “Leading Doctrines of the Review.” These “leading doctrines” included many points, but made no mention of justification by faith. Three years later, in 1877, James White and Uriah Smith conducted “The Bible Institute,” a series of classes to prepare ministers for the work of evangelism. Again, justification by faith received no attention. The following year, 1878, Uriah Smith published Synopsis of Present Truth. Its 336 pages had much to say about the law, but said nothing of justification by faith. No wonder Ellen White warned the church, “We have preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain” (Review and Herald, 3 March 3, 1890).
As a result of this overemphasis on the law, most Seventh-day Adventists became enmeshed in a subtle form of legalism — made up of salvation by grace plus works of the law, or by faith plus works — which robbed them of the peace and joy of salvation. In order to deliver us from this legalism, God, in His great mercy, brought to this church, in 1888, a most precious message of justification by faith in the righteousness of Christ. An integral part of this message was that Christ, in order to save humanity from sin’s guilt and punishment, as well as from its power and slavery, assumed the self-same, sinful nature of the human race He came to redeem.
In 1976, the church acknowledged that the 1888 message had never been fully accepted and that, consequently, the blessings of the latter rain and the loud cry, which were to accompany its reception, had never occurred (see the Adventist Review, 27 May 1976). This is also evident in the fact that many Adventists today still have not recovered from this subtle problem of legalism. Many are still depending, to a large degree, on their conduct to assure them a place in heaven.
Underscoring this problem recently, the Valuegenesis survey of Adventist young people revealed that the large majority do not feel secure about their own salvation. Steve Dailey reports in Adventism for a New Generation (Pages 14-15) that “83 percent of Adventist young people agree with the statement that reads, ‘To be saved I have to live by God’s rules.’” Even more disturbing is the finding that 62 percent of Adventist youth believe that “the way to be accepted by God is to try sincerely to live a good life.” And 58 percent believe that they can “earn salvation” directly through “personal effort.” No wonder our young people are leaving the church in droves!
Clearly, our gracious Lord is once again endeavoring to restore the glorious truth of Christ our righteousness, a subject which will one day, said Ellen White, “swallow up every other truth” (Review and Herald Extra, 23 December 1890). Will this message be fully accepted this time? If so, it will accomplish what God had intended it to do some one hundred years ago; it will lighten the whole earth with Christ’s glory, thus making it inexcusable for any to be lost:
After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor.
In His prophecies of the last days, Jesus declared:
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Revelation 14:6-12 describes the fulfillment of this prophecy in the proclamation of the three angels’ messages:
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth — to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
A second angel followed and said, “‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great,’ which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.”
A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.” This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.
I believe God has raised up the advent movement to give these messages to the world just before Jesus returns.
If the message God sent to this church one hundred years ago is to be received by His people today, if we are ever to proclaim the gospel in the three angels’ messages to the world with power, then we will have to resolve the issue of Christ’s human nature. Not simply in order to clear up some complicated theological point, but because it is through Christ’s humanity that God totally redeemed our fallen human race from the sin problem and obtained for all humanity full and complete salvation. Ellen White expressed it this way: “The humanity of the Son of God is everything to us. It is the golden chain that binds our souls to Christ, and through Christ to God. This is to be our study” (Selected Messages, 1:244).
To this end, this book is dedicated.